Blast From the Past

Now I’ve updated this blog every day for the last month. It feels odd to be in that quotidian writing mode again. I’ve done it before. A long time ago.

I used to have a blog before there were blogs. We called them “Online Journals.” Mine was called “The Daily Epiphany” and I uploaded it every day, every day with only a few missed hunks here and there during periods of turmoil or extreme ennui, for somewhere around ten years.

The first entry went up on… let me check the backup copy on the portable hard drive… July 25, 1996. It was not very well written. Let’s see.
(I used to start every entry out with a quote)

IAGO

I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter

and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.

BRABANTIO

Thou art a villain.

IAGO

You are–a senator.

-From Othello, by William Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene 1

 Yesterday, I took Nick and Lee down to play baseball after I picked them up. I couldn’t find Nick’s glove so we played with tennis balls, took turns batting. They had a real blast, I’ll try to do this more often. They wanted to bring the tee next time, they are still a little too small to hit pitched balls on a regular basis. Lee was a little overheated and tired, he almost fell asleep when we got home, Candy thought he might be sick, but be was only worn out.

 Then I went to see Othello at Shakespeare in the Park. I really liked it, even though I’d forgotten how depressing this play was. They are alternating Othello with Midsummer’s Nights Dream, which I saw before vacation. The same set and many of the same actors are used in both productions, it is interesting to see the same elements present in two stories of such differing tone and outcome.

 By the way, the phrase “making the beast with two backs” is really from Othello. I always thought it was only some nasty bit someone made up.

 It amazes me that so many people don’t like Shakespeare. I think it is a carryover from school when we all remember the dreary days sitting in class, reading Julius Caesar. These are PLAYS for godssake, they aren’t meant to be read out of a book. I think that all school children should see a Shakespeare play first, or a least rent the movie, and only then read selected parts of the play for further study. Othello, of course, is a very turbulent story of evil, and jealousy. With it’s racial overtones, it is an amazingly contemporary story, Spike Lee could have written a it as a screenplay. Sitting there watching it, I could not believe that it was written over 500 years ago.

 All in all a very entertaining night.

 Many people are surprised that I go to plays, movies and things like that by myself. I don’t understand why more people don’t.

 First of all, it is the only way we can get out without a sitter, which costs a ton of money.

 Actually I did take Nick to see King Lear, two years ago, when he was 3 or 4. He liked it more than I thought he would. Of course, he didn’t have a clue about the plot, but he liked the swordfighting and the storm. Then he fell asleep. I could never take Lee though, he simply can’t sit still. I am looking forward to a couple years from now when we can do more as a family. Right now, Lee is so active, there are few places (DZ, Chucky Cheese, outdoors) where we can take him without driving ourselves and everybody else crazy.

 Also, I’ve always enjoyed movies and some plays by myself. Of course, you miss out on the companionship, but if it is a movie you really want to see, you don’t notice anyone (or anything) else while the movie is on anyway. It’s OK to read a book, watch TV, rent a movie by yourself, why isn’t it considered all right (in many circles at least) to go out in public by yourself. I like to see what I want to see and not have to worry about my companions and whether they like what I like (or am offended by what I like).

 It is a big change from my younger years. The big worry then was being alone and not having anyone around to do stuff with. Now I really cherish any time I have by myself, any privacy I’m able to scare up, any moments that no one is making demands on me.

 After work, I’m planning on riding my mountain bike for a little while, but I have to be home at 6:50 PM, Candy is going out for dinner with the other preschool PTA moms. So I’ll get in a couple quick laps at the Rowlett Creek single track and then get home. When it cools off a little

 I’ll take the kids back down to the school and we’ll play some baseball, if they still want to do that (which they will).

 I’m looking forward to riding today, I rode this weekend and am doing a lot better on the mountain bike, since the trip to New Mexico.

 Years ago I was a serious bike rider. It was a good time in my life, I was healthy, in shape, and really enjoying the challenge of improving my abilities on my road bike. I was considering some amateur racing. It took up a horrendous amount of time, however.

 When my kids were born, I stopped riding for about five years, I really missed riding, but I had literally no spare time. Now that my kids are a little older, I’m starting in again, totally out of shape, about 30 pounds heavier than I was when I last rode. I bought a mountain bike, and am in the long process of learning the sport, and getting my body into shape. I have the goal of being a pretty good rider one year from now, when we will return to New Mexico for my family reunion. The mountains and desert out there will be a great test for me (they sure ate my lunch this year).

Not too much has changed in the last fifteen years. Nick and Lee were, let me think, six and five. Now they are a junior and a sophomore in college and we still don’t feel comfortable leaving them at home without supervision.

Writing something on the web has really changed in that short time, though. Back then, there was no high-speed Internet. To surf the web, you had to have a free phone line and connect with a dial-up modem. I do miss that series of sounds: the dial tone, the number being called, the hiss and tone of the modem speed negotiation.

There was, of course, no blogging software. Everything was written off-line and then uploaded. I think there were a few primitive HTML editors, but most people wrote with notepad, putting in formatting codes by hand.

I still prefer to write off-line – either from OpenOffice or my Alphasmart – and then paste into the blogging software. It gives me one more layer of thought before the words escape. First drafts aren’t writing, they are typing – editing is writing. At first, my only access to web space was the five megabytes that AOL gave you with your membership. It’s surprising what you can do with five megabytes if you work hard and use mostly text.

There were very few people doing this. I was somewhere around the thirteenth person. It was considered very strange and somewhat insane to be putting your private life out there. There was no Facebook or any social media of any kind and privacy had a completely different meaning – that the rapidly evolving technology was threatening in a big way. I was interviewed for a number of articles, Wall Street Journal, New York Times… I’ll try to find copies of those, it would be interesting to look back.

Lee and I

The New York Times used this picture of Lee and I for their article.

There were these things called Webrings… The one for Online Journals was called Open Pages. There are still a few backup copies of Open Pages around, this one from 1998 had 326 listed (see, there I am, number 13), a year later it had more than doubled. I don’t think anyone would have thought that there would be tens of millions of the things being written a short ten years later.

I have a rough backup of my old entries. I’m in pretty good shape from 1996 to 2005, which is pretty damn amazing when I think of the series of computer crashes, online service provider bankruptcies, and lightning strikes my data has endured over the years. Remember, most of that time my work was backed up onto floppy disks. After that it gets pretty spotty as I tried to enter the modern world with a database-based system. It’s surprisingly easy to maintain a backup of a long list of text files in directories, not so easy with a remote database (when your service provider decides to take a powder).

Lee on the monkey bars.

I had to stop around 2006 – my kids were in high school and everybody was now online and it was getting too difficult to manage an online presence that was so public. Now of course, the kids are mostly gone, I’m an old fart, and I don’t give a crap anymore, so I can put it all up.

Several time I’ve tried to make a count of how many actual entries I still have (a few months here and there have gone wonky) – several thousand, at any rate. I am working on finishing my “new” Linux server and when it’s done I will use it as a file, music, and web server and I should be able to get all these old entries up. It will be ugly, the links won’t work anymore, and I’ve lost a lot of the images, but it will be a record of a time gone by.

Nick on his skateboard.

Nick reading Harry Potter.

Nick reading Harry Potter. Is this the first one?

In the meantime I’ll try to keep on writing every day. There are a few hints and tricks I’ve learned that are necessary to keep a string like that going (the most important trick is to give yourself permission to publish crappy entries) – and one is to have a backup plan… a way to pull an entry out of your ass when the idea creek has gone bone dry. One way is to have some photographs stuck away you can stick up… and now I have a few thousand entries I can pull out as say, “Hey look how much I used to suck!” and maybe nobody will notice that I still suck just as much.

Nick and Candy now, in Durham

Nick and Candy now, in Durham

Lee now, in New Orleans

Lee now, a Tulane student in New Orleans - Mardi Gras, Krewe of Zulu parade.

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